As a child, Steve Davis dreamed of playing for Oklahoma and even tucked away a picture of the Sooners’ quarterback he idolized in his dresser drawer.
Decades later, he is among the standard-bearers for the position at one of college football’s most storied programs. Davis, who started every game during Barry Switzer’s first three seasons as head coach and won national championships in 1974 and 1975, died Sunday in a plane crash in South Bend, Ind. He was 60.
Davis compiled a remarkable 32-1-1 record in three years as the Sooners’ starter. The Sooners went 11-0 in 1974, then won the national title again the following year after going 11-1.
It was a storybook career for Davis, who finished with one of the best records for a starting quarterback in the sport’s history after a humble beginning at Oklahoma. He grew up in Sallisaw in the eastern part of the state and developed a love for the Sooners. In an interview with The Oklahoman newspaper last year, he described how he hid a picture from an Oklahoma football brochure in his top dresser drawer.
“It was a shot into the huddle, and there was Bobby Warmack, who was my idol. He had that eye-black, and the double chin strap and the towel out of the front of his pants,” Davis told the paper. “I took that picture, and I took a big, black magic marker and wrote ‘WHEN?”’
The day Davis made his first start in the 1973 season opener, he said, his mother took the picture and wrote on it: “TONIGHT.”
Oklahoma beat Baylor in the opener, then tied powerhouse Southern Cal — with Lynn Swann and Pat Haden — in the second game.
After that, Davis and the Sooners ran off 28 straight victories.
A product of a different era, Davis hardly had to throw a pass to be the star quarterback in Oklahoma’s dominant wishbone offense. He completed just 40 percent of his passes during his career for 2,034 yards, but only attempted about six passes per game during Oklahoma’s back-to-back title seasons.
Davis went 3-0 against Nebraska and Oklahoma State, two of the Sooners’ chief rivals.
“This is a tragic loss,” Switzer said. “Steve was a tremendous role model for student-athletes everywhere. He was a good student and a fantastic person.”